Letter: End of farming?

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The Independent Online
THANK YOU for your report from the bus on its way from Leek to the countryside protest (2 March). It made me reflect how little attention has been paid to the question of what will happen to land that is going to be lost to active farming over the next five to ten years as a result of influences quite separate from any anti-hunting legislation.

An increasingly global food market, the effects of BSE and the likely reduction or removal of hill-farming subsidies will put many farmers out of business. After the markets for rural retreats, golf courses, paint- balling, off-roading and holiday villages have been satisfied, what happens to the rest of the land? Who will spread the muck (where will it come from?), cut the hay and maintain hedges, ditches, drains, walls and woods?

Market forces are already determining what happens to rural transport, shops, schools and pubs, and these impoverishing influences will continue largely outside the influence of government. But will government, national parks authorities, the National Trust and others start to plan how to manage the piecemeal demise of large numbers of small upland farms? Are they the right bodies to do this?

Threats to hunting and field sports clearly exist, but are, I suggest, less important than those to the livelihoods of upland farmers and to their land, the results of which we are likely to witness in the early years of the next millennium.

PATRICK NAISH

Whiston, Staffordshire

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